Fela the fantastic and the date from hell


Great seats for Fela! at the Ordway over in St. Paul. Great seats for a fantastic show. Lousy date, but, yep, great seats. Right on top of the action.

Start getting straight around noon. Down to V.I.P. Hair & Nails Salon for a haircut by none other than owner-proprietor Tiffany Blackwell her own self. Won’t let nobody else come near me with a pair of scissors. She usually shampoos me and throws in a vigorous finger massage (I now know why cats purr). Too busy today, so, she has Versie fill it. Sans massage. He and I do, though, get wrapped up in a busy conversation about relationships. Exactly how things went there, don’t recall, but he asked whether I write about that subject. Do I? We jaw back and forth, forth and back. ‘Til I eventually sell him a copy of Something I Said—a third of which is about relationships. After Versie finishes, the illustrious Ms. Tiffany takes back over and, man, I’m here to tell you, by the time she’s done working her customary magic your boy looks positively civilized. She quit cutting heads before I die—lie to you not—will go to my grave one corpse in serious need of a haircut.

Okay. Clean as a mosquito’s tweeter. Get up out of the chair. Time to go home, feed Butch & Sundance and maybe get do some work. Get within a couple blocks or so, just short of the Convention Center, who’s coming this way but my new book publisher (‘til the deal’s nailed down can’t divulge his identity) and that rascal Bill White of MN Law & Politics infamy. To think, I used to be scared to even meet the guy. When I first started writing for L&P, all I knew about him—and that was enough—he was the magazine’s publisher. The big boss. Sue me, I find big bosses scary. At least, when they sign my checks. On one visit to the office, editor Steve Kaplan introduced me to him and I managed not to pee on myself. Hard to say exactly when, but, somewhere along the line, got to know the guy. You wanna talk effervescently irreverent? The man is Dennis the Menace all grown up. Haven’t seen him since L&P folded (boo, hiss!) and there he is, coming across the street, big as life, a good time just waiting for an excuse to happen. Looks like a flippin’ movie star—Catholic Irish handsome, decked out in business attire with flowing head of collar length hair Tiffany would love to get her scissors on. Sporting, snazzy too-cool shades. Only White can make such a get-up work: he’d be as at home at whatever corporate snoozer he just left or at Palmer’s Bar on a Saturday night.

Bill continues down the sidewalk. Me and my new publisher shoot the shit. Actually, our conversation covers more serious ground than that. Just, when you have a comfortable, working rapport, serious ground is best covered by simply shooting the…well, you get the idea. Unexpected plus, turns out the publisher’s attorney deals in entertainment law. Music, no pun intended, to my ear. You have any idea how long I’ve been looking for a lawyer to pitch my songs “Lady Midnight” and “Angels Don’t Really Fly” to a country artist? Particularly Ronnie Milsap? For flippin’ ever!

By the time I make it to the crib, the cats are staring daggers. Butch yowls his indignation. Sundance, comparatively subdued, gives a muted meow in disdain. I think aloud, “Why don’t you guys go get a job doing Friskies commercials?” Might as well talk to the wall. Close the door behind me, fill their food bowls, change the water. Look around and spent so much time running my mouth with Bill and the publisher half the afternoon is gone. Curtain is 7:30. It’s running on 3 (well, okay, also took a detour to the liquor store). What kind of work am I gonna get done between now and when my date picks me up at 6:30? Haven’t even figured out what I want to work on. Creating a whole new piece in that time—and eat and shower, too? Forget it. Haul up an essay from the new book, tinker with it. Add a couple graphs. Pull together DVDs to return to the library, including a choice item, Electric Ladyland. Which I hate to give back, having just reviewed it for MN Spokesman-Recorder’s (MSR) online edition. Hell, David Daniels, a fellow fan of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, didn’t know that disc existed. Call it a coup. Can’t wait for the review to be published.

Return the DVDs (library’s down the block), piddle around on the walk home, bored, waiting to go see this show tonight for which I interviewed supporting lead Paulette Ivory. For next week’s MSR’s newsstand edition. Back at the crib, phone rings and who is it? K Jay. What better way to relieve boredom than to take it out on a friend. Y’ know, just f— with him. It’s easier with K Jay than Fancy Ray. Yeah, the same guy, Fancy Ray “The Best Lookin’ Man In Comedy” McCloney. Roll with both them jokers. Fancy Ray couldn’t give a flyin’ figure-eight whether I catch a attitude. He’s from the true old school that says, “You mad? Scratch yo’ ass and git glad.” K Jay is easy pickin’s. Raise up, sell woof tickets to him and K Jay is like, “Hey, man, what’s the matter? I do somethin’ wrong?” Not this time, though. Must be spending too much time around Fancy Ray. Today, he’s on the order, “Man, sell that noise down the road. I’m trying to come by and talk to you about my book you editing.” So, we talk about that. Then, it’s closing on about 4 o’clock. Not a good time either start something new or finesse anything old. Fry a Swiss grilled-cheese sandwich with bacon and tomatoes. While it’s cooking, dash to the corner bodega for chips and a bottle of chocolate soda to wash it down. Come back, snatch it off the stove, eat, set the alarm and catch a nap.

My date, let’s call her Risa (not her name) pulls up and, off the bat, I’m ready to call the evening off. Not only do she has her girlfriend, this stuck-up Meme Somebody Or Other (not her name) in the front seat. Didn’t even clean the floor in the back. I get in. Step on, then pick and toss garbage to one side—paper cups, food wrappers, what not. Talk about ghetto-tacky. Far from apologizing, she chumps me off, like it’s the most natural thing in the world that I just roll with it. When we get to the Ordway, she’s too cheap to spring for a lousy drink. No, you can’t really accuse me of expecting to mooch: it wouldn’t do me to divulge what our tickets went for at the box office, but they did call for at least a damn cocktail to express her appreciation (come to think of it she never did say so much as thanks for inviting her). Put it like this:  Miss Meme Whoever’s knickers got twisted on learning (she was stuck in the balcony) me and homegirl had such good seats to get much closer we’d’ve had to join the Fela! cast. Throughout the entire first act, my guest is singularly self-centered, obnoxious as a fart and, in general, about as rude as it is possible for one to be. At one point, Sahr Ngaujah, in the title role, exhorts the audience to stand and join in the revelry. Not much for standing at the theatre—unless it’s a concert, anyway—I stayed where I sat as everyone else leapt up, clapping, swaying to the music, so on and so forth. Fine. They’re having a good time and, despite my date, so am I. Then, Risa motions and says, “Get up.” Like commanding a dog, “Heel!” That’s the last straw. At intermission, change seats. Later, take the damned bus back to Minneapolis. Weren’t the first date from Hell I been on. Last one with her, though. Bet the ranch on that.

As for the show? Holy sugar! You ain’t never seen such dazzling dance in all your born days, courtesy of legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones. And if there ever was a reason to put headshots in the playbill (alas no such luck), these wondrously endowed dancers deserve it. Who knew hips—rolling, snapping—could move in so many directions at once? That thighs—thick and slim alike—can shake tight as hard times? Okay, alright. Folk familiar with African dance knew, that’s who. Sue me. Enjoyed one of hell of an eye-opening experience, witnessing the rhythmic, raucous heat of Fela! Too bad there’s no a publication to sell a review.